FOR the first time in, well, perhaps ever, I had an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve.

Not because of any desire to be healthy, or to “start the new year sober”, or even to show off on Facebook about how I didn’t have a hangover on January 1.

It just happened that way. I’d had to attend a funeral earlier in the day, it was hot and I was tired – not exactly optimum partying conditions. Also, I’m over 35 so a cup of tea and early bed is what partying looks like to me now anyway.

But, as the festivities around us pumped out the top pop hits of the millennium, it was clear, at least partially, why I was in the minority.

Whether it’s Pink imploring everyone to “raise your glass” or Katy Perry singing about her epic “blacked-out blur” of a bender in Last Friday Night, or Rihanna “going hard” on the Jameson whisky in Cheers (Drink to That), booze is a prominent feature in modern pop songs.

Because I wasn’t hungover on New Year’s Day, I went through the lyrics to every song on the US Billboard Hot 100 songs of 2016 list and found that 25 contained overt references to alcohol or drinking.

Perhaps it’s another sign of getting old, but I was a tad shocked that a full quarter of the most popular songs of the year had lyrics about getting drunk, drinking or which directly named specific alcohol brands.

Drake had three: One Dance in which he has a “Hennessy in my hand”, Hotline Bling in which he sings about “glasses of champagne out on the dance floor”, and Controlla in which he suggests he and his lover “smoke a spliff, have a drink me and you, then we release the stress and feel renewed”.

Pop princess Selena Gomez rhapsodises that her love is “metaphorical gin and juice” in Hands to Myself, while Meaghan Trainor brags about never paying for her drinks in the club in Me Too.

Maroon 5 is “wasted, and the more I drink the more I think about you” in Don’t Wanna Know, while Lukas Graham sings about “smoking herb and drinking bourbon liquor” at age 11 in Seven Years.

James Bay sings wistfully about “getting drunk ... staying up and waking up with you” in Let it Go, while James Arthur has possibly the most revolting lyric of the year in Say You Won’t Let Go with “we danced the night away, we drank too much, I held your hair back when you were throwing up”.

Rae Sremmurd’s Black Beatles glorifies “binge drinkin’” while, in Me Myself and I, G-Eazy is “swimming in liquor, my liver is muddy, but it’s all good I’m still sippin’ this bubbly”.

Flo Rida invites you to “pour yourself something cold” and “open up champagne” in My House, while in Low Life, rapper Future has lyrics about drinking champagne brand “Ace of Spade like it’s water”. Considering the rest of the lyrics feature ecstasy, Adderall and Xanax, the plonk is tame by comparison.

Booze brands are bandied about with abandon. Fetty Wap raps about Remy Martin in 679, Usher sings about Bacardi in No Limit and DJ Khaled mentions Hennessy in For Free, as does Tory Lanes in Luv.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course.

Chumbawumba’s incredibly annoying smash hit Tub Thumpin from 1997 trills about “pissin’ the night away” as the protagonist “drinks a whisky drink, he drinks a vodka drink, he drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink”.

Snoop Dogg’s seminal Gin and Juice from 1993 is an ode to smoking weed and drinking Tanqueray, and Amos Milburn released perhaps the most famous song about drinking ever recorded, One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer, way back in 1953. And then there’s Tequila, which has been pumping up parties since The Champs released it in 1958.

Meanwhile, Aussie rock legends ACDC have sung about booze more times than you can count; perhaps not unusual for a band that actually has its own brands of tequila, beer and bourbon and cola cans.

It would be easy to dismiss objections to booze-soaked songs as wowserism if studies hadn’t proven they were actually harmful to young people.

A 2014 study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research surveyed more than 2500 Americans aged between 15 and 23, and found that those who were familiar with songs referencing alcohol brands were more likely to drink to excess.

When 25 per cent of the top charting songs of the year contain lyrics about alcohol, that’s a problem.

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen a sharp decrease in the depiction of cigarettes and smoking in movies and on TV after a successful campaign by the anti-tobacco lobby.

Maybe it’s time the Top 10 went teetotal, too.


First published in The Advertiser on January 3, 2017. CLICK HERE to read the original article.